Tuesday, April 25, 2017


My favorite hight school seniors to photograph are those that are involved in sports or the arts or something where we can introduce, as props, things they can interact with that tell the viewer what they’re passionate about. We’ve also noticed when doing people’s portraits that they are more relaxed when holding something familiar.  Personal objects tend to have a calming effect making them less aware of the camera.

So, when I found out that this young man from Eagle High School (Eagle, Idaho) was a musician and played saxophones in several bands, including their Jazz band, I asked his mother to please bring his instruments to the session!  This was special to me because I played the Alto Saxophone way, way, back in Junior High School and have always loved its sensual sound. 

His mom wanted portraits of him in his tux, so we started in the studio with his Alto sax…
f13.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 200
After we did the usual yearbook portraits I changed-up the lighting for this very dramatic lighting of him playing his sax.  I placed my 7-foot main, soft box, 90 degrees to the left of camera and removed my usual white reflector from camera right—if you want drama in the studio remove ALL FILL! The only other lights are the background and hair lights.  

Next we moved outside to a local park with him more casually dressed and toteing his baritone saxophone….

f5.0 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; lens @ 200mm
I like the big baritone because it does not get lost in a full figure pose—it has substantial presence!

So, I had to do a close-up to highlight it’s marvelous detail…

 f5.0 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; lens @ 200mm
He really liked this particular image! Mom wanted some close-ups without the saxophone so we moved to a spot with a nice backlit background.  By now he was very relaxed with us so we had him sit on a low, split rail, fence while mom coaxed a smile out of him.

Our favorite was this nice neutral look showing his quiet intensity…
f4.5 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
By using f4.5 @ 200mm I always get a nice painterly look in my backgrounds and good Bokeh from the backlight’s specular high lights.

That’s it for this week…have any questions or comments feel free…’Til next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site:  http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Having just done a video on Dramatic Studio Lighting: Tools and Guns, I decided to try and compare light painting the exact same subjects!  I approached this little demonstration with some anxiety because with 30+ years experience in studio flash photography I’m used to being in strict control of exactly where each light is going and its measurable amount. I really like that with my professional studio flashes each has a modeling light that allows me to see what each hight is doing. It’s hard to give up that kind of control especially for an artistic perfectionist!

To add to my anxiety—I’d never done light painting in the studio before and I’ve set up a rather complex lighting challenge with this collection of small objects surrounding one large object all very close together. So, let the demonstration begin…and let me know, once you’ve seen the results, which do YOU think is better, light painting or studio flash and why?

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


I was going to just write a blog on this topic until I though about how many paragraphs it would take trying to describe the complex set-up and execution of dramatic studio lighting. 

The kind of lighting I do is not the usual product photography where photographers just put the object in a translucent light cube creating flat directionless light of the object floating in a white field, like what is used for catalogs. That’s not dramatic or even interesting and it’s certainly not art—that’s why I never wanted to do catalog photography.

Anything  you can put on a table top can benefit from the use of dramatic studio lighting. The following short video shows that my method is not really difficult and well worth the effort.

'Til next week...Let me know how you like the video format...

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training Site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client Site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


When photographers can’t find a rustic country scene locally to photograph in the snow we build it in our backyard!  

Here in our urban community of Meridian, Idaho it’s harder and harder to find the country farms and old barns I love so much. As the housing developments grow those farms and barns are being demolished rapidly.  Two barns with their farm houses—even all the trees—were knocked down last year here in Meridian and the remaining two farms with barns are for sale making way for more housing developments.

So, as a photographer that likes these old things I collect authentic farm tools and other rusty memorabilia that I can bring together in a variety of ways and build photo-sets. Sometimes I build these sets in my studio, but for this project I wanted an outdoor snow scene.  Our local weather people were predicting some good snow, but I waited until we had a good base on which to build my set. I was dubious because last winter (2015) we hardly had any snow—the most we got at any one time was three inches.  It turned out that I would not have to worry about too little snow…

 f13.0 @ 1/320 sec., ISO 400
We got six inches of snow here in early December (2016) and then six more, so by the time I got my act together I had to dig out an area upon which to place my base and farm course door for  a level set! One of my tricks so my set would collect snow more easily is to tilt the whole set back against the fence. Based on past snow fall here in Meridian this trick was necessary….not this year!

Here’s my whole set after I removed enough snow to make my tools and lantern visible!  I used a manual, rubber bulb, air blower and small brushes to remove the excess snow for a realistic look. 

My Snow Set
And the snow just kept coming! It turned out that this season’s snowfall, from December 2016 to January 2017, was the most ever recorded in the Boise area.

The first images I made of my set looked good, but with all the snowfall (overcast sky) the lighting was always too flat, so I kept the set up for a couple weeks util we got a break in the weather and the sun came out.

That’s when I took the final image. The low sun hitting my set from the right gave me the three dimensional quality I wanted on the snow.

Hope you enjoyed…’Til next week.

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com